ANCIENT LANGUAGE, LANDSCAPE & HYBRIDITY in experimental poetic practice

Practice-based PhD research at Royal Holloway, University of London, beginning Autumn 2018.  Supported by a scholarship from the TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. 

This research explores how late modernist and experimental poetics enact encounters with the ancient languages and regional dialects of the British Isles via formal innovation, translation and linguistically hybrid methods. Experimental poetry creates openings in which ancient language encounters can take place, encounters which in turn bring important dimensions of otherness to the discourses of eco-criticism and literary geography. ‘Hybridity’ is used as a suggestive and provocative term, referring both to interlingual practice and to interactions with the nonhuman to construct radically combinative ways of thinking, writing and performing.  Critical research will provide the basis for new creative work: written texts that engage with ancient etymology, geographic history and non-human utterance; and performed sound works that combine field recordings from researched locations with electronic composition and spoken text.  



morks is an exploration of the far north as a geographic and mythical region in Old Norse literature and its associations with female magic and witchcraft, gathering around the figure of the vǫlva (seeress or prophetess). The impetus for researching and working with this material began with a reading of episodes from the Icelandic Sagas (Íslendingasögur), and in particular the Saga of Eiríkr the Red whose chapter describing the Greenland prophetess ‘Litílvolva’ (Little Seeress) is the point of departure for most critical discussions of magic women in Old Norse literature. My translations of episodes from this and other sagas recount interactions with seeresses, witches, trolls and magic women. Often these can be interpreted as partial – though usually unsatisfactory – evidence of medieval Norse culture’s turbulent relationship with the native Sámi (in Scandinavia) and Inuit (in the north Atlantic), whose shamanic practices had significant overlap with Norse pre-Christian religion.

A first performance of morks took place at Festival Jeunes Écrivains, Galérie ÉOF, Paris on 25 November 2018.

Rune Cards.jpg

new old english: performance, poetry, practice

Creative Fellowship at UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, 2019/20

Rowan Evans, Maisie Newman, Dr Francesca Brooks

‘New Old English: Performance, Poetry, Practice’ brings the innovative and interdisciplinary performance company Fen to UCL as part of the Creative Fellowships programme for 2019-20. Fen is a collaboration between director/choreographer/3D animator Maisie Newman and Eric Gregory Award-winning poet/composer/sound artist Rowan Evans. Combining anarchic choreography, hybrid text and rich sound environments, Fen create exciting and challenging work for a range of audiences.

As Creative Fellows, Rowan and Maisie will develop WULF, their dark, feminist adaptation of the anonymous Old English poem ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’, in dialogue with staff and students at UCL. WULF is based on one of only two surviving Old English poems written from a female perspective and combines dance, multilingual poetic text and an original score, enacting a formal and linguistic transgression of the male-dominated poetics of Old English. Through interactive workshops, creative-research-practice seminars and scratch performance rehearsals, amongst other things, the project hopes to involve a broad spectrum of the UCL community in exploring the rich interconnections between scholarship and arts practice. Workshop themes will range from poetry and translation to performance and movement. Topics may include: ‘Women's Songs – defining a feminist poetics in Old English literature’; ‘Experimental Translation’; ‘Translating Old English poetics into choreography and performance’; and ‘Ritual, Ecology, Wilderness’. Responding to both the historical and recent and ongoing weaponization of the medieval past, ‘New Old English’ also seeks to activate and enrich wider conversations about the continued resonance of the early Middle Ages in contemporary culture, society and politics. The Fellowship will culminate in a new performance of WULF for the UCL Festival of Culture 2020.

For more information, or to find out how you and your students might get involved in the project, please email the Project Lead, Francesca Brooks: